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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

'Extreme' Web Sites Under Fire From UK Police 1154

Posted by timothy
from the and-such-small-portions dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A conference on electronic crime, taking place in London this week, has thrown up some interesting news. Britain's top hi-tech police officer has demanded a crackdown on Web sites devoted to 'abhorrent' subjects such as cannibalism and necrophilia. What happened to freedom of expression online?"
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'Extreme' Web Sites Under Fire From UK Police

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  • by gibbsjoh (186795) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:34AM (#8386243)
    Do your research, the BBC is publicly funded but (as the recent debacle proves) is anything _but_ a "government organ."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:34AM (#8386246)
    UK citizens are subjects of the crown and not people living under a free state. They do not have a right to free expression.
  • by asdfasdfasdfasdf (211581) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:34AM (#8386249)
    The First Ammendment to the US Constitution doesn't apply internationally..
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:38AM (#8386324) Homepage Journal
    There is no "Freedom of expression" law in the UK - it's not a right like in the US.
    Erm, the European Convention on Human Rights was written into British law in 1998. [bbc.co.uk]
  • by BassettHound (595956) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:39AM (#8386337)
    ...is not a guaranteed right in the UK, like in the US.
  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:40AM (#8386350) Homepage
    "What happened to freedom of expression online?"

    Remember, the story refers to the UK, not the USA. Things are different there, government and law struture wise.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:44AM (#8386419)
    "Publicly funded" is another term for "government controlled".

    No it isn't. I suggest you do your reseatch and find out what a Royal Charter is and how TV Licensing operates and get back to us on that.

    Hope that helps. Have a nice day.
  • by 3 am Eternal (754358) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:46AM (#8386457) Homepage
    "UKers'" do actually have freedom of speech through piecemeal laws and through pan-European treaty. The UK doesn't have a bill of rights [duhaime.org] that is similar to the US one but that doesn't mean common and other laws don't give rights.
  • All hype and no play (Score:2, Informative)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:47AM (#8386460) Journal
    Earlier this month, it was reported that a man convicted of murdering a special needs teacher by strangulation has been a regular visitor to pornographic Web sites that included images of necrophilia.

    I remember this on the news (afew weeks ago) and this is the only reason he's decided to have this crack smoking session.

    erm i mean crack down on these sites. Its a total media stunt to better his career in the eyes of the idiots who make up a large number of people in this country.

    Hynds' statement may also anger those who believe that one of the Web's great strengths is that it accommodates such a wide range of interests, free from censorship.

    Damn right it does, hopefully this is the last we will hear about it - once the media attention has gone why would he bother? But really, screw you Len Hynds you have no idea what the internet is and you shouldnt have your job.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:47AM (#8386473)
    UK citizens are EU citizens and are subject to the European Bill of Human Rights and therefore do have a right to free expression.

    Good day to you.

    P.S: We had the Magna Carta before the U.S was even a colony, let alone before a bunch of slave owners were scratching out a Bill of Rights.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:53AM (#8386564)
    Two errors in your post:

    1. certains limitations on the power of the government to limit freedom of expression are provided under the UK constituion. Yup, there is one. Why do you think the UK is referred to as a 'constitutional monarchy' and not an 'absolute monarchy'.

    2. The EU human rights laws now form a part of British law (apart from a few exceptions concerning detention of terrorists - yes the UK is as bad as the US). They provide similar rights to the US bill of rights.

    Now go and look up the difference between the 'constitution' and the 'bill of rights'.
  • by Wellspring (111524) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:54AM (#8386567)
    Um, you are all aware that Britain doesn't have free speech?

    By tradition, speech isn't regulated, but the Government can and does often quash news stories it finds offensive.
  • by dave420-2 (748377) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:54AM (#8386573)
    What crack are you smoking? Britain defined freedom as everyone knows it. Starting back in 1215, with the Magna Carta. Read up on it. That's right, nearly 600 years before the US constitution, the original document was formed.

    Plus, the UK is protected by EU human rights laws, which expressly protect freedom of speech.

    I guess the US media was too busy shouting "USA! USA! USA!" to broadcast that particular nugget.

  • Supporting Hitler (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:55AM (#8386600)
    "Yeah, but you fucking Americunts are a bunch of bible-thumping religious loonies who supported Hitler in principle - until he started murdering Jews"

    As opposed to the Europeans who went beyond principle, and supported him in allegiance and deed in the hundreds of thousands throughout much of Europe?
  • by lxs (131946) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#8386654)
    Well, if a country is a member of the UN then they should in theory subscribe to the

    UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights [un.org]

    Article 19.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Which sounds to me like an endorsement of an internet free of censorship.

    In practice, most countries violate at least one of these articles.
  • by KE1LR (206175) <ken...hoover@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#8386661) Homepage
    Through the magic of Tivo, I watched the PBS Frontline [pbs.org] documentary called "American Porn [pbs.org]" last night. It's at the same time fascinating and more than a little disturbing.

    It basically consists of interviews with people involved in the porn industry (from the front office to the business end of the camera) and talks about the environment in which they work. They spend part of their time focusing on a couple who are into making "extreme" stuff. The PBS camera crew actually walked out while these guys were making a "rape" video because they couldn't take what they were seeing, despite conceding that it was nominally consensual. The directors' only instructions to the woman were simply to "let it happen". Everyone knew what was going to happen (including being slapped around... and worse) except her!

    Kind of makes you think a bit about what is and is not over the line with regard to "freedom of expression".

    The full show is available online from the PBS web site.

  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frymaster (171343) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:59AM (#8386676) Homepage Journal
    Things are different there, government and law struture wise.

    note also that the uk has the highest number of cctv (surveillance cameras) per capita of any country in in europe by a healthy margin.

    add to that the fact that the british legal system seems to be based on the concept of writing broad, generalize laws and letting justice be sorted out by selective enforcement. there's a crime in the uk called "going equipped to commit arson" - carrying matches, basically. the theory is it will only be enforced against those who "deserve" p[ro\|er]securtion.

    put 'em together and it looks like britain is dedicated less privacy, and broader criminilazation. not very happy.

  • Ignorant mods... (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @10:59AM (#8386678)
    The original says:

    First they came for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up,
    because I wasn't a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak up,
    because I wasn't a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn't speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me,
    and by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me.

    by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

    So next time think before modding!
  • by jabuzz (182671) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:00AM (#8386688) Homepage
    Once upon a time that was true. However the Human Rights Act changed the ground rules and we now do. On the other hand a simple Act of Parliment can take it away again in an instance.
  • A modest proposal (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:02AM (#8386722)
    might be for you to look up Johnathan Swift upon your next trip to a book store.

    But it's neither a pop-up, nor a picture book.
  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:02AM (#8386727) Journal
    English Bill Of Rights, 1689 [yale.edu]

    Note that Freedom of Expression was only guaranteed to members of parliament, although there was a general right to petition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:05AM (#8386759)
    IANAL, but to be pedantic, Parliament is still sovereign in the U.K. The ECHR forms part of the law under acts of Parliament that make European law applicable, and so it's _not_ a constitutional right like in the U.S.
  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:06AM (#8386784) Journal
    IANALANAUC (I am not a lawyer and not a US Citizen) but isn't the concept of "Freedom Of Expression" a US law only?

    No. In 1789, French National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Its 10th and 11th articles read:

    10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
    11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

  • Re:Obvious answer (Score:3, Informative)

    by BigBadBri (595126) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:08AM (#8386806)
    No - it's perfectly normal for UK police chiefs to take an authoritarian line, the same line taken by UK politicians, UK newspapers, and UK public opinion as expressed by retired colonels in the shires who write letters to the Times.

    The fact that there isn't a great deal that anyone can do to stop these sites won't inhibit the chettering classes from thinking 'something ought to be done', and generally shouting about it.

    Personally, I don't care if people want to have websites with extreme material on them - but what I do care about is that these extreme sites, and the hysteria that can be caused by clever manipulators of public opinion, could lead to a repression of free expression by the back door.

    However disgusting they are, if they are not disrupting the Internet in general, then anyone that cares about freedom of expression needs to affirm their right to exist, unpalatable as that might seem.

    The alternative is state control and censorship of the Internet, which is the hidden agenda behind statements such as that made by the police officer.

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Informative)

    by azzy (86427) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:22AM (#8387008) Journal
    Yes.. canniballism is illegal in the UK.. but there have been cases of it, even shown on tv (documentary) without criminal proceedings being brought forward.

    Stop reading if squeamish.

    After a woman gives birth, and passes the placenta, in some cultures it is considered reasonable to eat the placenta.. as it is full of nutrients. But technically UK law regards the placenta as part of the human body, and the eating of it is cannibalism. A few years ago I saw a tv documentary in which a woman had her placenta made into pate, and had friends around to eat it (not all the friends could bring themselves to do it).. the programme even specifically mentioned that it was illegal.. to my knowledge no one was arrested.

    So if this aspect of cannibalism can be shown on tv, I am sure it can be depicted on websites, and discussed, without it really destroying society as we know it. just goes to show that nothing is black or white, and that extreme measures to tackle the internet are usually knee-jerk reactions.. stupid ones at that.
  • by plugger (450839) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @11:51AM (#8387422) Homepage
    The UK government's final sanction against publication of a story is called a 'D Notice'. This threatens closure of a publication if it publishes the offending article. Note that this cannot prevent the article being published, it just threatens punishment if the notice is ignored.

    And the UK government, whilst being comprised of lying sacks of shit, does not "often quash news stories it finds offensive". Please cite some examples if you disagree.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:00PM (#8387540)
    rather than the US system wherein you can only do what the constitution AND your laws allow you to.

    Completely wrong. If you read the US Constitution, you will see that it does not describe what rights people have.

    What then is the US Constitution? It is a contract between states. It describes what the federal government is allowed to do. The US government is given only those powers which are explicitly listed in the constitution.

    The states in turn derive their authority solely from their respective state constitutions. The states likewise are not permitted to take on any powers that are not allowed for in their constitutions. Each such constitution is a grant of authority directly from the people of the state. The states are also limited by portions of the US constitution.

    In this way, the authority of government in the US is derived from the people. Government does not have any powers which have not been explicitly granted.

    In contrast, the British government derives its authority from the English monarch, who derives her or his authority by hereditary succession and (allegedly) by divine right.
  • by pershino (326342) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:04PM (#8387573)
    "Once upon a time that was true. However the Human Rights Act changed the ground rules and we now do. On the other hand a simple Act of Parliment can take it away again in an instance."

    And if our dear Overlord... erm Home Secretary, has his way, then the government will have the right to suspend any law they choose, including the Human Rights Act. So it will only require an 'Act of the Home Secretary' to suspend freedom of speech.

    See BBC News [bbc.co.uk] here [bbc.co.uk], here [bbc.co.uk], and here [bbc.co.uk]

    I for one welcome our new Overlord, erm Home Secretary

  • Re:Just wondering. (Score:5, Informative)

    by FurryFeet (562847) <joudanx.yahoo@com> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:11PM (#8387684)
    Libel and Slander are civil torts in most cases. Criminal libel exists in less than half of the states, and is extremely rarely used: Reference [rcfp.org]. Just remember libel or slander cases and you'll always see "million dollar suits", but never "3 to 5 years".
    Yelling in a crowded theater: That is not an actual law, but a Supreme Court decision. Read it, and you'll see that the Justices were extremely reluctant to apply any limits to freedom of speech. The only reason that one stands is because it can cause actual physical damage to someone (that also stands behind the "hate speech" exception).
    I don't see how "gross" speech can physically harm someone. And you will agree that this can be the beginning of a slippery slope (remember the "bonsai kittens" thing. There are lots of people who will try and silence all kinds of speeck "for the children").

  • by elohim (512193) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:12PM (#8387704)
    That's the human-originating form of mad cow disease. Kuru is Crueztfeldt-Jacob disease.
  • by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:15PM (#8387769) Homepage Journal
    You're probably thinking of Prion based dieseases, which occur when you eat members of your own species. The most familiar prion diesease at the moment is Mad Cow diesease, which came around when farmers started adding ground up cow parts in the feed for their cows to increase their protein consumption.
  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:33PM (#8388111) Homepage Journal
    There's more to that than you might think. Cannibalism is a profoundly symbolic act. Warriors ate their enemies to gain the enemy's strength. The Wicked Witch wanted to eat Snow White's heart for the same reason.

    Communion in the church is a vestigal remains of this archetypal human behavior; it is the symbolism cut loose from the act. Of course the RC church will say that the host and wine "truly are" the body and blood of Christ, but this doesn't mean they think that the communion wafer turns into meat or that the wine has plasma and red blood cells in it. Indeed they would find this idea revolting. Their position has to be understood in terms of the medieval philosophical doctrine of accidental and esstential properties, which in turn derives from platonic idealism. From a modern positivist standpoint these statements are meaningless. However from a psychological standpoint they are quite potent for the believer.

    The act can also be cut loose from the symbolism: e.g. cannibalism in survival situations.
  • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:2, Informative)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @12:40PM (#8388218)
    "The fact is, if the US government attempted to outlaw Islam because the majority wanted it, the constitution wouldn't allow it."

    You are correct, however, the supreme court *could* interpret the constitution differently. That has been a major bone of contention in the US..the appointment of justices to the supreme court, which affects *how* the constitution is interpreted. Also, if enough people *did* want a change in the constitution, it *can* be amended.
  • Eating placenta (Score:2, Informative)

    by gonzocanuck2 (470521) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:21PM (#8388799)
    Yup, Google and you'll find recipes.

    The reasons for cannibalism in the past are often myriad...some believed that eating an enemy's body part would make them stronger; in some cultures it was a courtesy or honour to eat parts of a family member when they passed on.
  • by cotodoso (255747) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @01:39PM (#8389036)
    Not just members of your own species, actually. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (aka mad cow disease) is thought to have been introduced via ground-up organs (including brains) from sheep infected with scrapie. Scrapie is a wasting disease in sheep that was first described several centuries ago but that has never been known to have been passed on to humans. Once the condition made the jump from sheep to cattle, it also became transmissible to people.

    cotodoso
  • Re:Duh (Score:4, Informative)

    by efflux (587195) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:05PM (#8389374)
    this is a traditional Joint effect [datanation.com] causal fallacy. Pedophiles watch/look at child pornography because they want to have sex with children. It tends to happen first because it is often easier and/or has less severe consequences.

    Quoting someone as stating that their problem started with an obsession with pornography is equally fallacious--why should we trust their self diagnosis? Should we not recognize this simply as when the individual first became aware of their problem? If we take into account the subconscious, the reasoning should become immediately clear.

  • by Alan Cox (27532) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:11PM (#8389444) Homepage
    Different culture different values. We have a very recent and narrow definition of freedom of expression - although historically UK law has tried to protect newspapers and the like from most things, and the BBC has generally been protected from government meddling by other bits of law (and mostly by culture and tradition)

    OTOH we don't dump several hundred foreigners on offshore islands and deny them rights to trial (we only do it to a few of them and we let them "leave" back to their original country whenever they wish - which is magnanimous of us given some of them will probably be shot if they do that..)

    Except in narrow ways the US doesn't have free speech either - "To copy this CD hold down the... " oops , DMCA can't tell you that.

    When it comes to porn and violence on websites thats where they UK really does have its head up its (sorry we can't show that ...). Its very common for there to be films which are rated "12" in france and 18 in the UK, because they involve people with no clothes on. And unlike the USA there is no real change at the age 18, the state never says "fine you are an adult, nobody committed a crime making this movie, everyone is an adult, *you* decide if you want to watch it". The state always allegedly knows best.

    Since the UK state a) believes it knows best and b) believes that extreme porn and violence sites cause real world problems to occur (which may or may not be true - I've not had occasion to read the literature), its then logical that they believe they should be banning/blocking such material just as they take it off people at customs or stop it in the post if they discover it.

    Some people argue that the real test of free speech is your practical ability to say something extremely unpopular without retribution - I don't think the US or UK neccessarily score highly here.
  • by djiin (113861) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @02:27PM (#8389634) Homepage
    There are 5 standing D-Notices:
    1. Military operations, plans and capabilities
    2. Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapons and Equipment
    3. Ciphers and secure communications
    4. Sensitive Installations and Home Addresses
    5. UK Security and Intelligence services and special forces

    In addition, the government tried to bury stories relating to the northern Irish spy Stakeknife after it was discovered that the UK armed forces had been targetting irish nationals for assassinations. This was around 2000-2001 and I don't have urls to hand but cryptome files many of the stories.
    More recently the army stopped [guardian.co.uk] a radio 4 interview from going ahead.
  • by MacJedi (173) on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @03:43PM (#8390482) Homepage
    Right: the bread and wine change to flesh and blood in essence but not in substance.

    I've heard that there are obscure rules in cannon law to prevent, say, a priest getting really drunk and wandering in front of a bakery and yelling out "THIS IS MY BODY!!!!" and that being a valid transubstantiative event. (Because then you'd have to send in an army of priests to eat all the God in the bakery, you can't just throw it away or anything... :)

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